Artificial Intelligence in Accounting Firms isn’t going to destroy us, but set us free

In sci-fi movies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) often ruins man’s best laid plans. But artificial intelligence in accounting firms could be what finally sets us free.  This may be hard to believe, considering how much has been written about AI and computer automation making accounting obsolete. Currently, all signs point to this being true and that it is approaching much sooner than most CPAs are expecting.  This is our future!  It is time firms begin to embrace it. This is actually a blessing in disguise.

For too long CPAs, their clients’ most trusted advisors, have taken a backseat in servicing our clients’ real needs.  We have focused on providing historical compliance services, which clients often place little value on.  This compliance level of service will be the main aspect of accounting replaced by technology and automation.  It will finally free up CPA firms to provide proactive value added advisory services, which is what business owners greatly value and desperately need. A tax return will forever be a commodity, but advisory services are the future of our profession. We have been striving for this for far too long.

Combine this trend with the fact that future members of our profession are leaving public accounting. They struggle to be passionate about simply doing compliance work and want more out of their careers. One of the differentiating factors about the millennial generation is the strong desire for passion and purpose in their career.  They want to be passionate and really understand the why behind what they do in their careers.  Compliance work in the profession, for example preparing tax returns, has historically been a very manual and time-consuming process.  Other examples of compliance services which will be replaced by artificial intelligence in accounting firms are attestation and accounting services. What does appeal to the millennial generation and their passion is helping business owners achieve their dreams. This passion is the why: to help businesses grow, succeed, and flourish, not the what of preparing tax returns.

As a firm, if you are able to better attract and engage top talent, it will prove a highly effective tool to not only recruit, but to allow your emerging leaders to commit to the firm and become the next generation of partners.  While most firms across the U.S are struggling to attract and retain talent, those who are using technology to deliver dynamic, proactive advisory services are attracting the best and the brightest.

Today’s Technology Sets the Stage for the Future

Is your firm using technology to automate its processes and free up time to focus on providing value?  Let’s look at some examples of technology that exists today that can help your firm begin this transition.

  • Are you using CCH ProSystem fx Scan and Autoflow to reduce hours spent by your staff manually keying 1040 data into the tax software? Is your staff learning and enhancing their skills to advance past simple data entry and into critical thinkers who ask why and understand tax returns at a deeper level?
  • Are you using CCH ProSystem fx Engagement and CCH ProSystem fx Knowledge Coach to provide high quality attestation engagements?  Can you effectively leverage your planning and risk assessment process into higher quality, highly-focused audits?  Are you still trying to manually make the connection between risk assessment and audit procedures?  Allow your people to focus on adding value to your clients by providing higher quality work and not just working to manually complete checklists.
  • Are you effectively using CCH ProSystem fx Engagement to create high-quality financial statements automatically?  Or is your financial statement process still highly manual?  Once again, your staff should be able to focus on servicing the client and not on manually preparing financial statements.
  • Are you using CCH ProSystem fx Engagement to automate your corporate tax practice by providing a direct link from Engagement to CCH Axcess Tax? Again, reducing the need for manually keying in data.
  • Are you leveraging CCH Axcess’s power as the top cloud solution in the industry?  Having a common client database system allows firms to easily manage all aspects of the practice from the tax return to document management and the client portal, and at the same time connecting the workflow, time and billing?

Hopefully you are seeing the recurring theme here. Start leveraging the technology you have now!

Begin the Transition Now

Artificial intelligence in accounting firms will drastically change our profession in the near future. However, a number of amazing technologies exist right now that can put you on the path to conquering this evolution.  Begin the transition into being a key advisor to your clients now, and get ahead of the curve.

Not only will deploying these technologies put you on the path to building a better firm but they will also help at retaining top staff.  Lean on the technology skills of the younger generations to help you deploy and succeed with these tools to make this a truly impactful change at your firm. Make 2017 the year your firm embraces and leverages technology to better service your clients and to engage and retain your top talent!

Next month we will dig deeper into how your firm can make improvements on the audit and attestation side through CCH ProSystem fx Engagement and CCH ProSystem fx Knowledge Coach so stay tuned.

If you have questions on any of the technologies listed above, please let us know in the comment section.

Artificial intelligence in accounting firms seems like a long way off, but it’s not. Are your firm’s service offerings meeting your clients’ expectations? Download the “Game Plan for the Future” whitepaper to find out.


Garrett Wagner

As a business therapist at Thaney & Associates and CEO of C3 Evolution Group, Garrett Wagner CPA/CITP escorts firm leadership through succession planning, the technology evolution, and millennial talent development. Through his monitoring and use of evolving technologies and industry best practices, he brings “outside of the box” thinking, refined procedures, and awareness of traditional methods, with an eye on the future. Garrett’s succession planning process is a success factor on the road to reaching your lifetime professional goals of growth and profitability. His background leads partners to develop a plan, in a time when firm retirements are at a historic rate. Through his personal experience with technology, Garrett delivers ROI to firms. He will escort you through the identification of unique needs, choices in the digital market today, and best practices to maximize its use within the firm, removing the struggle to keep up while realizing its rewards and benefits. Also, talent needs to be developed from the moment of firm connection. Garrett’s leadership training curriculum focuses on enhancing emotional intelligence skills. He will work with the senior team to groom their understanding of millennial CPAs, keys to motivating these teammates and proven methods to actively engage them within the firm, halting near-term brain drain. Through succession planning, technology and millennial talent development, increases will be realized in work efficiency, work quality, and employee satisfaction, while training tomorrow’s leaders, as today’s leaders move on in their life’s journey.

All stories by: Garrett Wagner
  • Gail

    Our world is changing so rapidly and Garrett ‘s article points out that new technology is so important especially in the business world.

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